Tuesday, 4 December 2012


MOTIVATE ....The Umno president has also managed to motivate and fire up party members for the next general election.


PETALING JAYA: The just-concluded Umno general assembly was eagerly awaited. It came and went without much ado. The 66-year-old party formed in 1946 was at a crossroads. Its support from the majority- Malay community had slid to an alarming level evident from the results of the 2008 general election, which saw the ruling Barisan Nasional lose its long held two-thirds majority in the 222-seat Parliament.

To compound matters further, the BN, led by Umno, also lost four state governments – Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor – at the election. Kelantan was already under the clutches of PAS. It subsequently regained Perak after four state assemblymen opted out of Pakatan Rakyat to be independents in favour of the BN.

The 2008 general election was historic. Results of the polls also led to the ouster of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as prime minister and Umno chief. Efforts to push out Abdullah were spearheaded by another former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Abdullah was replaced by Najib in 2009 and the latter barely had three years to build back lost support, take control of Umno – the backbone of the ruling BN – and check inroads made by the opposition, just to name a few tasks.

Since taking helm of the country, Najib has come out with various incentives for the rakyat. These incentives have to a certain level managed to turn the tide and support is trickling back to the BN.

Although the opposition has not let up on the relentless attacks on Najib, Umno and the BN, efforts by the ruling coalition to shore up support were also keeping Pakatan on its toes.

The opposition knows that realising its dream of capturing Putrajaya, the federal administrative centre, at the coming general election, is no easy task. It has to redouble its efforts, find new strategies to break down BN support and, more importantly, make credible inroads into Sabah and Sarawak, which is touted to be the safe vault of the BN.

Proving a point

With all this in the background, Najib had to prove a point. The prime minister and Umno president needed to show that he was in full control of the largest political party in the country despite being appointed to the presidency. Najib has yet to contest the president’s post and win. He was appointed to the position due to Abdullah’s resignation.

This were no easy tasks, taking into account the leaders and warlords in the party, who have been wielding their stick every now and then, making all sorts of demands and statements detrimental to the party.

Prior to the general assembly, held over the last weekend, there was even speculation that Mahathir had joined hands with Umno deputy president and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a bid to oust Najib.

Apart from Mahathir, Muhyiddin was the first Umno leader to call for Abdullah’s resignation after the 2008 general election. Bloggers and political observers did not discount the same fate falling on Najib.

However, Najib, unperturbed by all the speculation, pushed ahead.

On the eve of the Umno general assembly, he issued the dos and don’ts for delegates attending the three-day meeting. Debaters were asked to keep to the topic. Avoid talking about non-Malay issues for fear of stoking the anger of the non-Malays. They were also told to keep a lid on religious issues. These are just the few things Najib had stressed during the traditional closed-door meeting just before the assembly.

Opening the general assembly, Najib went on a rampage. His attack was aimed at Pakatan, especially Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim. He also took a swipe at PAS which he claimed used Islam to fish for votes.

Najib also rallied his Umno troops, firing them into battle mode. He touched on their emotions, saying that if there was infighting or sabotage at the next election, Umno and BN might not form the next federal government.

Do-or-die mission

He told those attending the assembly that it was a do-or-die mission. He also described how Umno, which fought for the country’s independence, has come to this stage. Delegates were asked to do some serious soul-searching and ensure that the party once again stood tall among Malaysians and, more importantly, Malays.

He also asked party members to accept candidates picked by the Umno leadership to contest under the BN banner at the upcoming general election. He asked them not to be involved in any act of sabotage, if they were not aligned to those picked as candidates.

Observers and political pundits have been closely watching debates that followed Najib’s speech. Surprisingly, not even one delegate who spoke touched on the forbidden subjects. Everything was according to script. They were toeing the party line.

There was no voice of dissent. The debaters were in full support of Najib and Muhyiddin. They wanted Najib to continue his plans and “reform” ideas.

Orchestrated or otherwise, the whole proceeding of the general assembly showed that Najib was indeed in control of the biggest political party in the country.

This is contrary to what many had said after he took over Umno some three years ago. They predicted that Umno will sink with Najib at the helm, but the Umno president has managed keep himself and the party afloat. How long he will float is another question.

But, for the time being, he has managed to do what he set out to do. Unite Umno as a single unit and bring it under his control. (FMT)

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